All I Gotta Do Is, Act Naturally

1099375-clipart-movie-camera-filming-over-a-rainbow-splatter-and-film-reelsAt twelve I knew I wanted to act.  It was what I thought I’d be in adulthood.  I guess it was just going to happen naturally because I never had a plan. I failed to position myself for that occupation, relying on the ‘will of the universe’, or ‘fate’, or whatever my idiot mind told itself – so it never happened.

My first foray into Community Theater was in the early 2000’s.  I had auditioned for a play in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, but didn’t get cast, so I probably told myself I wasn’t ready yet.

I spent the better part of today as an extra in a film, driving over two hours to the set, and riding back home after 10 p.m., exhausted, and probably shouldn’t have been driving, but had I stayed at a motel, I would have spent more than I earned, and had I tried to sleep in a parking lot somewhere I would have been too paranoid to sleep.

This was the fifth movie I’ve been a paid prop in, oops, I mean background work, and I finally realized tonight, after almost getting a featured spot that the director, or the universe, or fate, decided to nix, that chasing acting is trauma re-enactment. I’m still trying to convince those in control that I’m worthy of notice.  I’m so tired of my psyche trying to  reconcile my neglectful past.  It’s not going to happen.

The same cast of characters appears each time, albeit in different physical forms. There are non-protecting bystanders, abusers, and victims.  (Victim is often a loaded word, so hear it un-weighted.)

Rising early, I rush about readying myself for the day’s work, ensuring I have collected all I need and might want, and set out into the dank, murky pre-dawn.  The creeping light flings itself out in eye-searing magnitude just as the crush of rush-hour traffic gathers at the crest of an eastward hill, and I jam on the car’s hazard button, hoping to avoid rear-collision while slamming on the brakes in what appears choreographed timing – as though the traffic were all swimmers breaking the surface one after the other in dizzying succession.

Surviving the first sun-caused hazards, we attempt merging with the big boys and girls zooming along on the super-highway at their break-neck pace: a feat reminiscent of double-dutch jumping  without tangling both jumpers in the ropes – only with higher stakes in the highway metaphor.

Once successfully merged, we soon come to several stand-stills, where many of us frustratingly shift from stopped lane to nearly stopped lane, seeing the traffic gods punish us with every lane but ours beginning to move.

An hour later, fleeing the chaos of four-lanes, for the migraine of two lanes, and a GPS with a shitty sense of humor, or probably just sadistic, I double back to the left turn it told me to take as I was passing it in the wrong lane, and I finally rumble into a bumpy lot, park, and kiss the steering wheel for getting me there without bodily harm or auto damage.

A dozen other, sleepy, hopeful stars ascend the shuttle bus stairs and settle in for our ride to the set.

Once there, we queue up to fill out our pay slip forms, find space to don our costumes, and then stand in the next line for hair, and then one for make-up, and finally find our way into the holding area where there is coffee and juice and cereal and muffins, and why are they feeding us all this crap when we’re trying to stay svelte for when we’re discovered the nineteenth time we cross that street when the director calls: ‘action’? So, I opt for coffee and a banana, and wait for our day’s adventure.

Extra work is similar to traumatic childhood in that we’re never told exactly what is happening that day, and what our role is.  We have to become ‘instant experts’ once we’re schlepped to location and placed.  Then we’re told that we’re excited, or mad, or confused, or disgruntled, or perhaps all of the above, and the day continues with each of us trying to out prop the other.

I swear the women who were behind us who ended up in front of us toward the end of that particular scene were going to end up in the car with the principal actors by the end of the shot.

And here’s the thing:  the principal actors are who matter.  Background is sound and color, and does serve a core purpose, but you wouldn’t know it by the haphazard treatment that I’ve experienced on every set I’ve worked on.

My goal is for principal actor roles.  My reality is that extra work will never meet that goal.  I need to change my approach, or nothing will ever change.  In life, or on film.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

Streetcar Dreams

I brought a new character into the play, in my dream, last night – a child.  In the beginning of the dream, the child wasn’t known to me, but later she was a girl I have worked with on a couple of other shows.  She threw up in the rehearsal space/apartment the cast was staying at, and she threw up on the stage.  No one was cleaning it up, and I couldn’t find anything to mop it up myself.  I was so anxious about not stepping in it, and of getting it cleaned up before we would be performing that evening.

An old boyfriend of mine was outside in a parking lot, perhaps of the theater we were bringing the show to.  He was taller and broader than I remembered him, and was aged several years, as he would be, and I thought, ‘oh, maybe we’ll get back together!’, but when I said hello to him, and asked about his life, he looked somewhat disdainfully at me and told me he’s married, and works for himself.

Houses represent the self, so perhaps this show is helping my ‘inner child’ purge the emotional vestiges from my young life, or perhaps the opposite is true and I need to purge Blanche’s character out of me.  No matter what the similarities are, we are not the same.  I have options, and I am availing myself of those options.

This has been a lonely experience, but also a gratifying one in learning the lines, and being present to the other actors as best I can, bringing an excellent production to the community.  We have two more shows before the run is through, and I am looking forward to re-organizing my life once the play closes.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

First Show Weekend Done

The intensity of playing Blanche DuBois is slowly receding, but we have a pick-up rehearsal on Thursday, and then the last shows over next weekend.  I’ve been sad that we’ve had a sparse audience, but happy that we’ve got a great show – well worth the $12 dollar ticket price.

It’s been an interesting journey, and I have much more confidence that I can tackle most anything now.  I understand Blanche the way I was always going to understand her, but more deeply now.  She has much more depth, and even strength, than I’ve heard most people attribute to her, but Blanche is doomed, no matter what.

My dreams keep writing Blanche’s character differently.  She has more to say, and isn’t alright with her fate as written.  That’s good news, isn’t it?  My psyche isn’t willing to resign her to what’s been told.  In my mind, she heals in the institution.  Her psychotic break isn’t permanent.  The beauty of that ending is that I know it happens.  People go through horrific things and continue on, relatively intact.

I gave my best performances, and will continue to.  I have enjoyed evolving through each night.  I find a different nuance to Blanche’s character, or a better way to interact with the other characters.  Theater is beautiful because unlike life, you get to do the same thing over and over, and maybe not create different results, but bring something more to each performance.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Goodbye Again, Norma Jean

Marilyn Monroe fascinated me as much as anyone else, I suppose.  As an American, she’s one of our iconic own, but she belonged to none of us.  I’m not sure she even belonged to herself.  I’ve read, or heard, so much about her from the time I was a child.  Ms. Monroe was a few years older than my father, who thought she was amazing – as I’m sure many men of his generation did.  I don’t remember hearing praise about her from my mother.

I didn’t like Ms. Monroe when I was young, or as I grew up.  She seemed like a poseur to me, even when I was no more than seven or eight.  Maybe that was because I knew my father liked her, or idolized her, when he was so horrible to my mother, but I might have been savvy enough to see through the façade of Norma Jean Mortenson without extra help.

Even into my twenties I had a disdainful-yet-envious fascination of her, and continued to judge her foibles harshly.  It wasn’t until the last decade or so that I began to have more compassion for Ms. Monroe and what it must have been like to live a life like hers – chosen or not.  I think the fame that Ms. Monroe sought and achieved wasn’t what she had expected.  How could it have been?  How can any of us know what it’s like being somewhere other than where we are?  I doubt that she would have planned for how her life unfolded, or that she conceived of being overwhelmed by her fame.  Even if she had thought of the potential consequences of fame, imagination rarely duplicates reality.

I remember reading that it took Ms. Mortenson four hours to ‘become Marilyn Monroe’.  It’s surprising how much I soaked up about a woman I claimed to not have much interest in.  Her mystique lives on today – although probably quite diminished from what it had been in her heyday.

An interview with some expert on Marilyn Monroe and her life was on NPR this morning, and the man went on about how smart she actually was, even though she typically ‘played dumb’, and what great comic timing she had – and some of my old envy came back as I listened and found myself deriding that guy’s assessment because, clearly, being male automatically exempts him from speaking neutrally about Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe belongs to the realm of Hollywood mythology now, her off-screen self forever marred because of her onscreen legend (deserved and accurate – or not).

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.